Punta Callan Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

20.7
FIETS
45.1 mi
DISTANCE
11,724 ft
GAINED
4.9 %
AVG. GRADE

FULL CLIMB STATS

INTRO

The west route to Punta Callan is Peru's hardest bike climb, and one of only 3 climbs in South America over 20 fiets. This is a long, grueling climb that will undoubtedly take you all day, but will reward you with an experience of Peruvian culture you can't get anywhere else.

See more details and tools regarding this climb's grade via our interactive Profile Tool.
Roadway & Traffic:
Road surface is very good on the main roadway, but questionable while passing through the towns. 

Traffic is light but occasionally fast moving. You'll be passed by more auto rickshaws than cars, and drivers will give you a friendly honk well before they pass you to let you know they're approaching.

Parking:
Finding parking is a challenge, the best place to look is in the Yautan District, a small town next to the start of the climb. 
This climb is paved, but when you're in an area like rural Peru you never know exactly what you're going to get till you're there.  Fortunately if you're cycling in Peru, you're probably the adventurous type.  We recommend smooth tires above 30mm;  however John rode this climb on 25s and was fine. We also highly recommend bringing a spare tire with you on your trip. 

One of the things that makes this climb so tough is the extreme altitude.  Bring gear for all sorts of weather conditions, rain and snow can appear in an instant in the Andes. 

The last 2 miles, carry a stick. While most of the dogs in the region are friendly, there are a couple houses with some very mean dogs which will chase you and bite if you don't have something to fend them off with.
Before heading out on any cycling adventure check out our Things to Bring on a Cycling Trip and use our interactive check list to ensure you don't forget anything.
When we went to conquer this climb, we stayed in Huaraz, a couple hours away, at La Casa de Zarela (which we highly recommend!)
Click here to view hotels in the Huaraz area.

There are several towns along this ride, and each one has places to purchase snacks, water, and full meals.

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ROUTE MAP
PROFILE TOOL

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CLIMB SUMMARY

Cycling Punta Callan East, Peru - green street sign reads "Abra Punta Callan - 4204 m.s.n.m; Pass Punta Callan 13793 f.t.a.s.l"

Cycling Punta Callan East - A World Top 25 Road Bike Climb.

Ride 72 kilometers gaining 3,573 meters to 4,217 meters at 5% average grade.

Climb summary by PJAMM founder John Johnson.

What makes this one of the hardest bike climbs in the world?: (a) length, (b) altitude, and (c) a relative steady and moderate grade, but for a LONG way. 😊  This climb is also quite scenic as it winds its way through a broad canyon, through a few small towns, on up to the peak where we have great views of Huaraz to the east and far below us.

Cycling Punta Callan East, Peru - photo collage shows PJAMM Cycling members unloading bikes at the start of the Punta Callan East bike climb

Start of the Punta Callan bike climb.

This climb begins about 110 kilometers (~68 miles) from Huaraz, but because the road curves so much it takes about 2.5 hours to get to the start from Huaraz.

Cycling Punta Callan East, Peru - photo collage shows views of the 6am sunrise on the day PJAMM Cycling climbed Punta Callan East; pastel covered skies and sharp mountain peaks in silhouette

Sunrise was around 6 a.m.

Since the climb is so long, up to such a high altitude, and because we had just spent two days climbing to altitude at an average of seven hours per day, we decided to get an early start to give me 10 hours to comfortably finish the climb.

Cycling Punta Callan East, Peru - views inside a market in Yupash, including lots of different bottled drinks, and a man wearing a beanie with an orange cat on his shoulders

We stopped in Yupash at about 6:15 a.m. Sunday morning.

Yupash is 18 kilometers down the mountain from Punta Callan summit.  We stopped here for some coffee and cheese and bread.  We pulled about 6:15 a.m. and intended to get some quick provisions in the little store pictured in the photos above.  After about 10 minutes in Yupash, a guy came up to our interpreter, Javier, and told him we had a flat tire - YIKES!

Cycling Punta Callan East, Peru - photo collage shows men repairing tire on SAG truck loaded with PJAMM's bikes, one picture shows an up close of the bone fragment that popped a hole in the tire

We tried to change the tire ourselves, but the jack that came with our truck was very narrow and it was just not safe enough to raise the truck with it.  So, there we are, 6:30 Sunday morning in the tiny village of Yupash, ostensibly without any hope of a tire change in the near future.  But wait . . . !!  No one is luckier than I am on these great adventures and this may be the greatest bit of luck I have ever encountered, ever.  

It turns out that the husband of the woman who runs the little market where we stopped changes tires - not with your standard US tire machine but with a pick ax and crowbar.  The total cost to us for this miraculous tire repair was 50 sol ($12.50).

Cycling Punta Callan East, Peru - a Peruvian man fixes the tire for PJAMM Cycling using a crow bar

Fixing a tire in the USA calls for a hydraulic $7,000 machine.

Fixing a tire in Peru calls for a pick ax and crowbar (~$10).

Cycling Punta Callan East, Peru - apple orchards and roadside stands along the first 15 minutes of the climb

Scenes along the first 15 kilometers of the climb. 

The grade on this climb is fairly consistent and the steepest kilometer is only 9.5%.  It’s not the grade that’ll get you, it’s the altitude, with only 58% of the oxygen that you’d have at sea level at the top.

Cycling Punta Callan East, Peru - photo collage shows aerial views of hairpins along the climb

There are several sets of fairly sizeable hairpins on the climb.

Cycling Punta Callan East, Peru - photo collage, PJAMM Cyclists riding their bikes through village of Pariacoto; open air fruit markets

We pass through Pariacoto at kilometer 14.

This climb is in the Cordillera Negra, which is a mountain range in the Andes of west-central Peru located in the Ancash Region. Our route is up the west side of Highway 14 which connects the Pacific (west) side of the region with Huaraz to the east.  We stayed in Huaraz which is centrally located to this climb, Punta Olimpica, and Conococha.

Cycling Punta Callan East, Peru - photo collage, four Peruvian children sit outside and give thumbs up to PJAMM Cyclists, climb views include steep cliffs and bold rock faces

We ride past steep and rugged mountainsides along steep cliffs during along the middle section of the climb.

Cycling Punta Callan East, Peru - views along the climb, including a man and a woman smiling in the bed of a truck with their dog, a brightly colored roadside sign,  and a man picnicking on the mountainside with his dog

We had many pleasant encounters on our ride.

Cycling Punta Callan East, Peru - photo collage, middle section of the climb, including lots of greenery, and some sheep on mountainside looking at passing cyclists

Scenes along the middle section of the climb.

Cycling Punta Callan East, Peru - a small and dirty white raggedy dog poses for its picture

Cycling Punta Callan East, Peru - a pack of vicious dogs in the roadway

Pack of vicious dogs at kilometer 67 (mile 41.6).

All dogs are not created equal - this is something I learned in a rather terrifying way at km 67.  We had been forewarned about aggressive dogs in the mountains of Peru and carried with us an 18” long bamboo stick to raise as dogs ran out at us.  That worked on all but one occasion, which was my close encounter with a pack of about 8-10 dogs near the top of the Punta Callan climb.  The dogs in the photo above ran at me when I mounted to ride past them after taking the photo.  They did not fear the stick and were so close and aggressive that I dismounted my bike, at which point they began circling around me.  Fortunately, a car pulled up as the pack began to move in on me - the car acted as a shield briefly, then the dogs started around the back and towards me again.  The driver got out of the car and threw white powder (talc?) at the dogs which backed them off a bit as I loaded my bike into the open hatch of the driver’s SUV - he drove me a quarter-mile out of danger and I then proceeded on my way.

Be very cautious when cycling in the Peruvian Andes - dogs are a problem.  Carry a stick or club to scare them off and protect yourself.  For the 67-68 km segment of Punta Callan, have a SAG drive you past the dog pack area.

Cycling Punta Callan East, Peru - photo collage shows bright orange hues on the sunset

In planning this climb, I gave myself 10 hours to comfortably complete it.  We lost two hours for the flat tire which gave me eight hours to get from start to finish - hence the sunset photos. 😯

Cycling Punta Callan East, Peru - PJAMM Cyclist John Johnson stands with his bike in front of the green road sign for Punta Callan

That’s a wrap!

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